Saturday, January 16, 2010

Should I Praise Myself?

Today a good friend of mine asked me, "Do you ever praise yourself?" 

We were talking about how I'm sometimes criticial of myself and insecure. And being insecure makes me feel defensive at times since I'm married to a competent and vivacious lady and I feel sometimes deep down that I'm not doing perfectly at being decisive and responsible and "taking care of things."

To make matters worse, I tend to grade myself down.  I expect myself to do perfectly, so when I only manage to do decently, I feel discouraged and criticize myself as a sorry loser.  That brought the question from my friend: "Do you ever praise yourself?" 

My friend and I both know the Sunday School answer. "I mustn't praise myself--that's proud and arrogant."
The Bible verse leapt to my mind: "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips." (Proverbs 27:2).

But right behind that came Paul's words--Paul, that brokenly humble yet confident man. He wrote to us:

"Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else..."

The advice from Proverbs is general good sense: don't go around trumpeting your praises if you really want others to honor you.  Paul answers my more personal question:  Yes, praise yourself in your heart, Daniel, without comparing yourself to others.  (Of course don't emptily praise yourself. Paul also had cautioned: "If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself." Galatians 6)
In the end, the real praise we will value is God's praise, I think.  Our own praise and even others will be forgotten when we hear His voice. 

But maybe praising myself if I've done something well is helping me to hear His voice now. Maybe if accusations are from the enemy, praise can be from God.  A few times I've tuned out the voices in me that constantly accuse, and tuned in to God's radio station. He knows how to rebuke, but most often when I listen He is encouraging me, pointing out the good I've done and overlooking the failures, praising me as any proud father would. It brings tears to my eyes when I hear His eager praises of me.
Martin Luther said we need to preach the gospel to ourselves every day.
I still feel Sunday School shame to praise myself in my heart for the good things I've done.  And find it so easy to criticize myself for every small mistake.

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